As a follow-up to our July post on New Jersey state budget problems threatening public construction projects, the political fight over funding New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund (“TTF”) finally ended on September 30, 2016. Governor Chris Christie and the legislature agreed to a compromise whereby the TTF will be reauthorized for eight years and funded with an additional 23 cent per gallon gas tax, for a total funding of $2 billion per year. As part of the compromise, the estate tax will be phased out by 2018, the sales tax will be reduced by 3/8th of a point, and other credits and deductions will be added to the NJ tax code.
The Maryland Department of Transportation/Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/MTA) recently announced its selection of Purple Line Transit Partners as the concessionaire for the new 16.2 mile, 21-station, light rail Purple Line that will run through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. On April 6, 2016, the Maryland Board of Public Works, comprised of Governor Larry Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, unanimously approved the public private partnership agreement with Purple Line Transit Partners.
We have been following the development of this project for several years. In 2013, Maryland identified it as the first P3 project under new legislation that updated its Public Private Partnership law to facilitate the use of P3s.
There were questions about the viability of the project in 2014 during the gubernatorial election cycle. But after taking office in January 2015, Governor Larry Hogan gave conditional approval to a reduced-cost version of the Purple Line project and outlined three criteria for approval of the project: (1) additional financial support from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties; (2) reserved federal funding; and (3) aggressive pricing from the successful team. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties pledged $330 million in cash and non-cash contributions to the project. The federal government reserved approximately $900 million for the project, with $125 million recommended for FY 2017. Finally, the initial state expenditure for construction cost was reduced by $8 million to $159.8 million, and the amount of the average annual availability payments was reduced by $18 million to $149 million per year over thirty (30) years. As a result, the project is reportedly coming in $550 million below prior estimates, and the Governor approved moving forward with the project.